17 Ways to Work with Dancers with a Disability By Imogen Butler

The arts are able to inspire people of all ages and from all walks of life. Through the arts people with a disability can acquire the freedom to express themselves, develop confidence and gain communication and social interaction skills. Diversity makes all art forms richer and more interesting – dance is no exception! Our dance tutor, Imogen Butler, has put together some handy tips for working with dancers with a disability:

  1. Face the students when communicating and make sure all students can see you clearly
  2. Use your hands – gesticulate! Consider learning/using Makaton if necessary
  3. Ask questions
  4. Accentuate key words
  5. Ask students for describing words (of any aspect of the dance: Style, posture, specific movements)
  6. Speak in rhythm / timing of the dance
  7. Use rhymes
  8. More able students can support less able
  9. Prepare students – don’t take them by surprise eg if you are going to use them for demonstration. Consider using a visual lesson plan so students know what they will be doing
  10. Discuss how you are feeling / what you are thinking within this ‘picture’ (Like when Mary Poppins and the children jump into the chalk paintings in the original film)
  11. Think about use of eyes: What are they looking at? Where are they looking? How are they feeling within their ‘character’?
  12. Compare the stance, posture, ‘look’, ‘feel’ to something familiar to the students – can the students come up with imagery of their own?
  13. Use video (YouTube, or students watching themselves on video)
  14. Use visual aids to support learning floor patterns, placing, travel direction: Photos, drawings, footwork ‘maps’ (for Latin and ballroom), colour (eg Green = Go forward, Blue = Backward,  Red = Sideways)
  15. Improvising to a piece of music will show you how students naturally dance and move
  16. Clap (accentuate where required. For example; clap #1 of the slow waltz can be lower and louder to communicate that step #1 is weighted, claps #2 & #3, are higher and lighter to communicate that these steps have a lift to them)
  17. Celebrate achievements!

To view Orpheus dance in action: The Lost Boy performance and ISTD inclusive dance research project

To support Orpheus students: donating, fundraising or volunteering.